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League legend Tommy loses decades-long battle with cancer

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Australian rugby league legend Tommy Raudonikis has died, age 70.

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One of the game’s great characters, Raudonikis lost his long battle with cancer on Wednesday.

He had fought testicular cancer after suffering a quadruple heart surgery, before he was then diagnosed with throat cancer.

A tough halfback, Raudonikis represented NSW on 24 occasions and played 29 times for Australia in Tests and World Cup matches – twice as captain.

His last appearance for the Blues was as captain in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980, but he is arguably best remembered for the “cattle dog” cry he coined as NSW coach in 1997 – a series they won.

Born in Bathurst in 1950, Raudonikis was the son of an immigrant Lithuanian father and a Swiss mother.

In 1969 he moved to Sydney and played the first of 201 games with Western Suburbs in the Sydney first division.

After 11 seasons at Wests, nine of them as club captain, Raudonikis joined Newtown in 1980, playing 37 games over three seasons – including the 1981 grand final as captain.

Raudonikis was voted the league’s best and fairest for 1972 and awarded the Rothman’s Medal.

In 2004 he was named in Western Suburbs’ team of the century and was inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2008.

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys led the tributes to Raudonikis.

“Tommy was one of a kind. There will never be another Tommy Raudonikis,” V’landys said.

“Tommy was everything that makes rugby league the greatest game of all. He grew up in a migrant camp in Cowra and went on to become NSW’s first Origin captain.

“As a player there were none tougher. He was a brilliant halfback, what he lacked in stature he more than made up for in smarts and courage to become one of the best players of his era.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered his condolences to the Raudonikis family.

“All of those who love their rugby league will certainly know about Tommy Raudonikis – he was one of game’s biggest characters and will be sadly missed in the rugby league family and sincere condolences to his family and to the rugby league family as well,” the prime minister said.

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